When is servant leadership a bad thing? On your resume!

Most savvy executives nowadays have embraced the model of servant leadership–rather than being authoritarian bosses their teams are afraid of, they actually listen, use the power of persuasion to influence others, and work to lift up their team members (among other things).

This style of leadership requires humility. In general, this is a good thing–putting ego aside and being a leader people truly admire and want to follow.

However, the one time you DON’T want to be humble is when you’re writing your resume.

During a recent meeting with an executive client, I asked her about some of the things on her existing resume. For her current job, it stated that she “supported” three particular departments–but these were the departments I would think she would be running.

“Are you being modest there?” I asked. Sure enough, these are the departments she runs.

“I try to be a servant leader, so saying that I support them is the language I would normally use at work,” she explained.

Here’s the problem: a recruiter or executive who knows nothing about you might take a statement at face value.

If you say you “supported” something or “assisted” with something, they don’t have any way of knowing the true nature of your role. Don’t expect or hope that they’ll somehow figure it out based on delicate nuances.

Bear in mind the way recruiters and executives normally look at resumes. They do an initial scan that might take only 6 seconds (research supports this). They’re usually looking first at your current title and company, then the title and company before that; and if that interests them, they might read the first sentence of the description about your current position.

They might not read anything else if they’re not sufficiently interested based on what they read in that initial 6-second scan.

So we need to make sure we’re using clear, accurate language that gives you proper credit for the scope of your responsibility. Don’t downplay anything.

Save the servant leadership language for the office!

This article first appeared on KellyDonovan.com